Ofcom Plans To Help SMBs Get Better Broadband And Mobile Services

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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Ofcom says it wants SMBs to receive better value, higher quality communications services, even if they take consumer offerings

Ofcom has outlined plans to ensure SMBs are able to benefit from competitive and innovative communications while also being afforded  appropriate regulatory protection even if they use consumer services to power their business.

The regulator says that although 85 percent of SMBs feel they are well served by the market, others have had problems and many are unable to secure the deals received by large enterprises, which benefit from scale and a competitive market.

The availability of superfast broadband is central to Ofcom’s plans. It will look at the gaps in fibre coverage and work with the government to further rollout in both urban and rural areas while it will also see if regulatory intervention is necessary for the provision of leased lines.

Ofcom SMB protection

splayfoil road fibre cabinetOfcom will speak to rural businesses to determine their needs, which could affect future policies, and the watchdog will also review how effective its protection rules for SMBs are. A portal offering advice on choosing providers, resolving disputes and other support will go live in the autumn, while a ‘contract checklist’ has been published to help businesses when they sign a new agreement.

Research will also be carried out to determine how new technology and services are impacting the market and data will be collected on various complaints, such as difficulties in switching providers.

“We recognise what a critical sector of the economy the SME community represents, and how important digital communications technology is to this group of business consumers,” says Ed Richards, Ofcom CEO. “While there have been developments in the range of services available over the past decade, we’re still not confident that SMEs are benefitting as consistently as they should be from high quality digital communications.

“Our work will help ensure that the market is delivering for businesses of all kinds and to make sure that the right protection is in place for them if it isn’t.”

Recent Ofcom research showed that the number of call failures is far higher in rural areas than in towns and cities, a problem that the government will hope is solved by the £150 million Mobile Infrastructure Project (MIP) to improve mobile phone signal in remote parts of the country.

Other government initiatives include the Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) initiative, which offers funding to local authorities to extend fibre to areas that would not otherwise be commercially viable.

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